Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Tad Overwhelmed

You guys—I don't know if this is just early-semester-panic, but I am totally stressed out. My schedule is absolutely insane this semester and I am actually not sure how to make it all work. I mean, I know I will because I always do, but right now I am completely overwhelmed.

this is not me ever

A big problem is that I don't yet have my internship schedule confirmed, which means I can't confirm my work schedule, which means I can't nail down my research schedule, which means I can't nail down my tutoring schedule, which means I can't nail down my, like, eating and sleeping and showering schedule. THIS IS CAUSING ME A LOT OF ANXIETY. I have my first day at the health clinic on Wednesday, so hopefully that will help, but still. There are only enough hours in the week for me to make this all happen, you know?

A related issue—and this is kind of stupid and ED-related—but exercise. I usually work out first thing in the morning, and use the days that I have early class as a way to keep me from working out 7 days a week. For example, last semester, I worked out every morning except Monday and Wednesday because those were the days I had early class; the rest of the week, I had enough time before work or class to exercise in the morning. Does that make sense? For the past couple of years, I've kind of used that as a self-regulating rule—I ONLY work out in the morning, and if I can't fit it in, then I skip that day. Plus, I like the routine of working out, coming home, showering, eating breakfast, and going on with my day, and not having to think about exercise the rest of the day. But this semester, it's possible that I'll be starting with either class, work, or my internship early enough almost every day that I won't have time to work out in the mornings, which kind of throws my whole routine into a tizzy.

Next issue: the GRE. It's in less than two weeks and my ability to study has been seriously hampered by the start of the semester. It's probably still better to be taking it in January compared to April or May when I'll likely be even more swamped because of finals and stuff, but right now it's just this giant thing hanging over my head. Plus, it's going to take up half a day that week that I do NOT have to spare.


And then there is my actual course- and work-load. I mentioned that my classes should be a lot more interesting this semester, but that also means there's more work, reading, exams, etc. And although I'm super happy about my advisor giving me more research responsibilities, that also means that I'm spending a lot more time struggling to figure things out, working with software I've never used before, playing with complicated data I've never seen's just a lot.

Finally, there are always random meetings and stuff that pop up, but unfortunately I have zero flexibility in my schedule and am having a hard time fitting things in. I still tutor two students who are getting totally neglected these days because I simply have no idea where to squeeze them.

Any advice on how to prioritize, manage my time, and not lose my mind is much appreciated!!


  1. What's dispensable at this point? I know it might seem like nothing is, but what can you just say hi, I don't have time to give myself fully to this right now, and xyz important thing would be better served by someone with more time to commit? Tutoring? Research? I'm guessing the internship is necessary for your grad program, and the work is necessary for your living, and classes duh are obvs too. But if you can, strip down what you're doing as much as possible, and think about why you're doing things, you know?

    Is it necessary to take the GRE right now, while you're adjusting to the new term? Would it be easier to dedicate x amount of study time/week for it, and then take it in April/May, in the midst of finals but after six months of sustained effort?

    As someone who has supervised (and fired) younger student researchers, I have to say-- be honest about how much time you have to give to your activities. If you don't, you'll end up feeling overwhelmed, miss appts, etc. It's so, so much better to stay on top of things from the outset. It is 100% okay to say no when you're too busy. It is okay to say no and not feel guilty. It is best for your advisor if you say no when you're in over your head. People respect people who can set boundaries, and then they know when they ask you to do a task and you agree that it will absolutely no problem get done. (I'm not a jerk, I promise! But said student flat out lied to me, and that, coupled with a pattern of not showing up, was more than I could stomach. I took my own advice and decided that mentoring wasn't something I had time for anymore.)

    Sorry, that's a little uh, specific of a rant... and not related to you obvs, but yeah. No one expects you to be super human, but setting yourself up with a more manageable schedule at the start of the term (and maybe even adding things if you want later) is a much better approach IMO than starting overwhelmed and bailing on things last minute.

    Good luck.

    1. Really really helpful all around—thanks. The thing I'm struggling with most is that the "nonnegotiable" stuff (class, work, interning) is less interesting/compelling etc. than the "optional" stuff (research and tutoring). Research in particular is a huge time commitment and is technically voluntary, but it is something that I tend to regard (in that self-imposed, "I-should" kind of way) as a top priority for educational and professional reasons. I often let it take precedence over schoolwork because I enjoy it more, I want to learn about the field/research process, and I've formed this really good working relationship with my advisor (and I want him to like me and think I'm smart and write me glowing recs some day). Plus the fact that I—being the type-A goody two-shoes teacher's pet that I am—know that my schoolwork will get done no matter what, no matter how many things I pile in front of it. But yeah at this point I am definitely stretched a little thin (not literally...can't be too careful with words when EDs are involved...)

      I can and frequently do move around and/or skip tutoring sessions, not so much because it's a huge time commitment (only 2-3 hours per week) but more because of the actual timing of it (i.e. it's hard to schedule due to conflicting schedules, location, etc). So that helps some, but for the most part you are right, I've kind of gotten myself into this situation where it feels like everything absolutely must and wil get done.

      As for the GRE, that's a good option and I hadn't even really considered it that way. Will definitely check the website to see if it's possible to push the date back since I've already signed up and paid for the January date.

      Anyways. I've basically written a whole other post here. I find it helpful to articulate things even if it's boring for everyone else to read!! Thanks SO much for brainstorming and offering advice—means a lot.

  2. I definitely agree with JS (and also your response) about finding things that can be let go for this semester. It sounds like tutoring could be something that might be able to go right now, just a thought. Also, could you maybe discuss a slight cutback on your research hours for this semester? I, too, have mentored undergrads/grad student and I really appreciated when they were just upfront about their schedules and asked to decrease their hours a bit (or even a lot). They were dependable (like you) and I knew they weren't just asking that to go play video games or something. Could you maybe discuss decreasing five hours/week? It worries me a bit that you're feeling really overwhelmed this early in the semester (and knowing all the stuff you've got going on, I 100% understand why you feel this way), and that things may only get worse once classes ramp up in workload.

    For the GRE, A) It would be great if you could switch when you're taking it. They tend to offer a lot of test dates and there's really no huge hurry on taking it. B) I think you probably have the verbal stuff down pretty well based on blog/email/knowing you, and maybe just brush up on the math part (if you need to). Don't put too much pressure on yourself about it. It isn't nearly as "important" as the ACT or SAT. I promise.

    I really hope you can get your schedule straightened out soon; I know it's a major stressor to have that all up in the air. Good luck! And text/email if you need to vent or need a sounding board! Don't forget to have some fun and take care of yourself too!

  3. Also, I didn't in any way mean to invalidate your nervousness about the GRE. It IS stressful! I was just trying to reassure you that it won't be a make or break exam. Anyway, sorry if it seemed I was brushing that off. I was definitely nervous when I took it, and was very glad when it was over. You'll do great!

    1. not at all Alie, you actually made me feel like 100X better. I am having a hard time prioritizing (when I get home each night, should I do my class reading? look over notes for my quiz next week? or work on practice GRE questions?) so it really helps to get some perspective from someone who's been there. thanks!!